Hayslip, Le Ly, with Wurts, Jay. When Heaven and Earth Changed Places. Doubleday: 1989; New Vintage/Anchor Books Edition: 2017 (replaces Penguin-Putnam Edition: 2003). Coauthored story of a Vietnamese peasant girl’s wartime experience and return to her native country in 1986. Released in 1993 as the Oliver Stone/Warner Bros film, “Heaven & Earth”; first serial to Los Angeles Times, Detroit Free Press; paperback to NAL; selected by Book-of-the-Month Club, Quality Paperback, and History book clubs; Reader’s Digest Condensation: Today’s Best Nonfiction, 1989; foreign rights to Britain, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Korea, Indonesia, Taiwan, Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, and Greece; cover review, Sunday NY Times Book Review, 6/25/89; also selected by NY Times as one of 1989’s Fifty Notable Books of the Year, PEN-West as Best Nonfiction of 1989, NY Public Library as one of the Top Ten Nonfiction books of 1989, by Brandeis University for its National Women’s Committee Book/Author award, by American Library Association as one of 1990’s “Best Books for Young Adults,” and by Quality Paperback Books Club as nominee for 1990’s “New Visions” prize.


It is said that in war heaven and earth change places not once, but many times. When Heaven and Earth Changed Places is the haunting memoir of a girl on the verge of womanhood in a world turned upside down. The youngest of six children in a close-knit Buddhist family, Le Ly Hayslip was twelve years old when U.S. helicopters landed in Ky La, her tiny village in central Vietnam. As the government and Viet Cong troops fought in and around Ky La, both sides recruited children as spies and saboteurs. Le Ly was one of those children.

Before the age of sixteen, Le Ly had suffered near-starvation, imprisonment, torture, rape, and the deaths of beloved family members—but miraculously held fast to her faith in humanity. And almost twenty years after her escape to America, she was drawn inexorably back to the devastated country and family she left behind. Scenes of this joyous reunion are interwoven with the brutal war years, offering a poignant picture of Vietnam, then and now, and of a courageous woman who experienced the true horror of the Vietnam War—and survived to tell her unforgettable story.


One of the most important books of Vietnamese American and Vietnam War literature. …Moving, powerful.

Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer, (2015)

A rare view from the bottom up. Lucidly, sometimes even lyrically, Ms. Hayslip paint an intensely intimate portrait…touching and illuminating. …Written with the help of Jay Wurts, a writer and editor, the book is a searing and human account of Vietnam’s destruction and self-destruction. …If Hollywood has the courage to turn this book into a movie, then we Americans might finally have a chance to come to terms with the tragedy in Vietnam.

David K. Shipler, front page, The New York Times Book Review, 6/25/1989

I do not believe anyone who reads it will ever be able to think about the Vietnam War in the quite the same way again…here is one that tells how it REALLY was. It should not be missed by anyone.

Washington Post Book World

…it is a testamony to the intelligence, unflinching honesty and simple clarity of Le Ly Hayslip’s voice (rendered with the help of her co-author, Jay Wurts) that the dimensions of her story seem both epic and poignantly particular… This is one of those stories that defeat moral attitudes; to read it is to look at both the vibrantly alive face of ‘the other side’ and the deadly heart of war.

Eva Hoffman, The New York Times, Books of the Times, 5/17/1989

The passion and suspense of her experience and her youth…make this memoir almost impossible to put down. Engrossing and beautifully told.

San Francisco Chronicle

It should be required reading in military colleges and in high schools and universities looking for broader, more personal interpretations of geo-politics. …it should be heard by any man—and especially any woman—who cares about life on our planet.

Los Angeles Times Book Review

It’s a wonderful, wondrous book…about the preservation of hope, humanity, dignity, traditional values, and family.

Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club

International Recognition

When Heaven and Earth Changed Places has been translated into 16 languages other than English. These include German, Dutch, French, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Jakarta, Korean, Swedish, and others.

German edition: Geboren in Vietnam (“Born in Vietnam”)
Swedish edition: Himmel och Jord
Dutch Edition: Toen Hemel & Aarde van Plaats Verwisselden
Italian edition: Quando Cielo e Terra Cambiarono Posto
Taiwan’s edition:
Japanese edition: 天と地 (Heaven and Earth)
Spanish edition: El Cielo y la Tierra
French edition: Entre le Ciel et la Terre


A review of When Heaven and Earth Changed Places by author David K. Shipler, featured on the first page of The New York Times, June 25, 1989
Le Ly Hayslip and her book featured on first page of Los Angeles Times Magazine
Le Ly Hayslip and the impact of her memoir on policies towards Vietnam, discussed by Norman Boucher on The Boston Globe Magazine
Le Ly Hayslip’s When Heaven and Earth Changed Places alongside the works of other authors on Vietnam, notably Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer and Nothing Ever Dies